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Mantecas Derek Benson, to study biomedical engineering
Derek Benson and Jenny Yu are pictured during the annual Soroptimist scholarship awards at the Manteca Senior Center. The two are the co-valedictorians of the Class of 2013 at Manteca High. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Behind many a successful student is a teacher who inspired them to spread their wings and reach for the stars to achieve their penultimate dream.

In the case of Derek Benson, who is sharing valedictorian honors with Jenny Yu of the Manteca High Class of 2013, that teacher is Troy White. Benson, the youngest of the three children of Kenneth Benson, Jr. and his wife Christine, credits his AP biology teacher as the person who inspired him to pursue biomedical engineering and mathematics at the California Polytechnic School in San Luis Obispo starting this fall.

“It’s a difficult field but I really like biology and math, so it just made sense to go into biomed,” said Benson about his determination to concentrate his advanced studies in biomaterials with the goal of working later on in a research lab. He has already laid out the course of his future studies. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, he plans to get a master’s degree next.

“The main thing about working in research and development is that I see it as a broader way to help people,” said Benson who has received a scholarship from Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo and another from the Elks Foundation.

Benson is graduating with a cumulative GPA of 4.57. Throughout his four years in high school, he was involved in a number of sports pursuits. He wrestled for four years, was in cross country for two years, and another two years in track, among other things. She was a member of the National Honor Society and of the California Scholastic Federation for three years. As for his extracurricular activities, he was active in the City of Manteca’s Youth Advisory Committee.

With all his academic challenges and sports involvements, there was no time left to squeeze in any hobby.

“I’m so busy with school I really don’t have a hobby,” he said with a small laugh.

But he had time left for a part-time job. This summer, he expects to work full-time at George Reed Construction Company where his father is the manager. Mom Christine is a Manteca Unified vice principal who divides her time between Sequoia Elementary and Brock Elliott Elementary. The couple’s other two children are Krystle DeRocco who graduated from California State University, San Diego and now works as a paralegal, and Casey who is a sophomore majoring in history with a minor in mathematics at Chico State University.